January 8, 2006
Take a Day Off, Texans
by Keith Weiland
With two of the most electrifying players to ever enter the draft this year, the Texans could not have fallen into a better situation. Southern Cal running back Reggie Bush and Texas quarterback Vince Young, while certainly not the most complete prospects, are a pair of players that have transcended the college game like few before them ever have. Toss in Bush’s teammate, quarterback Matt Leinart, who had the inside track at being the first overall selection in last year’s draft, and this is one awesome April we have hurtling towards us.
And by earning the worst regular season record this season, the Texans sit in the driver’s seat of the proverbial 1961 Ferrari 250GT California. The question at Reliant Park shouldn’t be "what are we going to do," the question ought to be "what aren’t we going to do?"
There are three compelling options available to the Texans (and arguably one or two more). They can select Bush to complement their running attack and add a player who, in addition to Andre Johnson, defenses would have to specifically design a gameplan against. They can select a new quarterback in either Young or Leinart. In selecting Young, they get to bring home the city’s hero, a player that breaks the mold at his position. Or with their third option, the Texans can trade down one or more picks and acquire talent to expand upon the young nucleus they have already started.
Decisions, decisions. In the words of Ferris Bueller, if you had access to a car like this, would you take it back right away? Neither would I. Gonna take me awhile to think about what the best thing is to do here, and it ought to take the Texans even longer.
But it apparently hasn’t taken the Texans long at all to decide. If national and local reports are to be believed, the Texans have already made up their mind that Bush will be the pick.
Bush might be a truly phenomenal pick. He’s very popular, don’t get me wrong. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude. I would love for the Texans to have such a talent.
The Texans are apparently rushing into the decision about making him the first overall pick though. Sound familiar? Anyone? Anyone? It should. When the Texans last owned the top pick in the draft, their expansion season of 2002, they had their minds made up by January then, too. By the time the Senior Bowl rolled around that year, the entire team was sucking up quarterback David Carr like he was a crack-laced Slurpee.
And now they’re doing it again. Fortunately, the Texans appear to be in a win-win (or really a win-win-win) situation. Bush, paired with Domanick Davis, can be a lethal one-two punch on this team for the remainder of the decade. But I have to wonder if the team’s stubbornness when it comes to Carr is keeping them from evaluating all of the possibilities with this draft.
On the heels of the team’s most disappointing season in franchise history, Carr is at a crossroads in his career. His contract ends next month if the Texans don’t buy back the last two or three years on the deal he signed on draft day four years ago. There might not be an easier time contract-wise for the Texans and Carr to part ways than this offseason. Trading him may never be more simple.
Should the Texans take the time to consider all the options, they might stumble across the possibility of smacking Carr with a franchise tag next month. Carr would be given a one-year guaranteed salary in the neighborhood of $9 million. With no unamortized signing bonus, another team could request his services in a trade, and the Texans would avoid any dead money on their cap by making such a deal. Trading Carr could net them a draft pick as high as a late first rounder, or he could bring in some other key pieces to the team’s roster puzzle.
For comparison’s sake, if the Texans exercise Carr’s two-year option, they will owe him a bonus worth $5.5 million (payable in two equal installments) and base salaries of $5 million in 2006 and $5.25 million in 2007. Should the Texans then decide to trade Carr this offseason, they would absorb roughly $3.67 million in dead money on the 2006 cap. With the three-year option and the $8 million bonus, that dead money cap hit jumps to $6 million if he is traded this offseason. Basically, by exercising Carr’s option before February 19, the Texans are ensuring that Carr will not be traded.
But why unload his services? The Texans have four years invested in Carr, and going with a rookie like Young or Leinart would feel like starting over. Owner Bob McNair and general manager Charley Casserly don’t want to accept the reality that their team was really 2-14 last season.
They believe, and maybe for good reason, that a young roster mostly made up of players that won seven games in 2004 only experienced an outlying blip when winning just two games in 2005. Coaching was the problem, and that situation has been rectified. Back on track already, right?
Maybe, but maybe not. To not really even consider all of the possibilities, one of which includes finding even a new quarterback to build around, is a bit short-sighted. This is not a zero sum game in which there is only one right decision to be made, as taking Bush could catapult the team into playoff contention as soon as next season. But aren’t the Texans jumping to that conclusion a bit early?
Let’s consider the third possible scenario, trading down. With three talented prospects arguably worthy of the top overall selection, the Texans have a rather valuable number one pick. They shouldn’t trade down very far, but playing the game with a little smoke and mirrors they might even be able to get the Saints to trade up from the number two spot in the draft. Doing so would allow New Orleans to draft the quarterback of their choice and prevent the Texans from trading with other potentially quarterback-hungry teams like the Titans and Jets.
To move up just one spot from the third overall in the 1998 draft, the Chargers gave the Cardinals a 1999 first round pick, its second round pick in 1998, and a bevy of players including returner Eric Metcalf and former second round pick Patrick Sapp. All that just for moving up from #3 to #2, allowing the Chargers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to select… Anyone? Anyone? Ryan Leaf.
Of course it remains to be seen, but there is no Ryan Leaf at the top of this draft. Leinart and Young are proven winners, and Bush is a freak with the football. If the Texans were to listen to trade offers from the Saints, or ahem, even their division rivals Titans, imagine the king’s ransom they might receive in return… AND still end up with either Bush, Young, or Leinart.
Since the Texans cannot confirm by February which of the three phenoms they are certain to get, the best option when it comes to Carr’s looming contract deadline is the franchise tag. It gives the Texans the most flexibility. If they want to keep Carr, they can renegotiate a long-term deal and truly make him their franchise quarterback. If they want to trade Carr, they can get some sweet compensation from another team.
Stop for a second and imagine the haul in that scenario – trading down to #2 or #3 and getting a treasure in return that would likely include an additional first round pick in 2007 and a second round pick in 2006 and probably a little more, drafting one of those three studs, AND getting a nice package in return for Carr that might include yet another first round pick – talk about building a nucleus.
Quit your dreaming. The Texans aren’t Ferris, they’re his sad sack buddy Carmeron, and they’ve already made up their minds. Pardon my French, but if you stuck a lump of coal up their asses, in two weeks you’d have a diamond.
The draft moves pretty fast, Texans. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.
Keith Weiland doesn’t dream. He simply exists in a parallel universe once his eyes are closed, one in which the Texans didn’t waste a second round pick on Tony Hollings. And yeah, it’s a pretty magical place. Don’t wake him.
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